Connect to share and comment
Around 30 people protested Monday against a Malaysian parliamentary proposal that critics say allows detention without trial, denouncing it as a broken promise by the government to scrap oppressive laws.
The protesters, including leading activists, rights lawyers, and members of the public, staged a short march to parliament in Kuala Lumpur where they attempted to hand over a protest letter.
Prime Minister Najib Razak's government has proposed amendments to a 1959 crime-prevention act to give police a stronger hand to deal with a wave of violent crime that erupted in recent months.
But activists and the opposition have seized on provisions that they say will allow suspects to be held for years without review.
They accuse Najib of reneging on an earlier promise to move away from authoritarian rule.
"We were absolutely taken for a ride," election-reform activist Ambiga Sreenevasan said of Najib's earlier pledges.
"I don't buy this talk about crime because we have enough legislation to fight it."
Facing earlier large-scale protests against his government, Najib in 2011 abolished the tough Internal Security Act and the separate Emergency Ordinance (EO), both of which allowed detention without trial but which activists said were abused to squash dissent.
"I have no confidence they won't abuse it, because this is what they've done before," Ambiga told reporters of the proposed amendments.
Malaysians have been shocked by a recent upsurge in gun violence that police and security officials blame on criminals they say were freed when the EO was scrapped.
Malaysian Home Minister Zahid Hamidi has denied the new proposal allows detention without review, calling the legislation "transformational".
But leading lawyers have said the draft language clearly provides for such detention.